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The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Souns-for-Literacy program in selected Knysna and Plettenberg Bay pre-schools. This included investigating if there were significant benefits for its recipients and recommending improvements that could be made to the program, particularly in adapting it to fit the South African context.

The program claims to build letter-sound associations. In response to evidence gained in the biannual surveys done by KET, it was decided that the program warranted a more formal evaluation. It was later agreed that the evaluation should i) critically examine claims about the effectiveness of the program; ii) analyse the relative value of factors contributing to its effectiveness, such as teachers, implementation practices and the program’s material and methodology, then iii) recommend improvements that cauld be made to the program. The evaluation should also identify insights gained in developing reading skills in pre-school children, specifically in South Africa’s multicultural and multilingual contexts.

The total number of schools investigated was 25 (21 pre-schools and 4 primary schools for follow-up purposes). The data collection was primarily through i) interviews with program personnel (mentors, facilitators, teachers and volunteers), ii) observations of the children interacting with the equipment of the program as well as iii) individual, informal and age-appropriate testing of letter-sound association knowledge at the end of the academic year.

The findings revealed that:

the program’s materials and methodology showed ‘highly significant’ benefits to most of its beneficiaries;

  1. KET’s support system (including mentors, facilitators and volunteers) was particularly valuable in contributing to the program’s effectiveness;
  1. certain adaptations to the sequence of symbol presentation for each language would benefit the children’s word-building capacity;
  1. the emergent literacy skill of learning letter-sound knowledge should gain more focus during this preschool stage.